Arsenal beat Barcelona over two legs? Of course we can

February 17, 2011


Written by Wonderman

Barcelona started the game with their one and two touch passing and movement when in possession and double and treble  teaming when not, but unlike like last year we were putting pressure on the man on the ball and holding our shape well. Which is one hell of a task when you see how Barca position themselves with their full backs playing as additional midfielders. In the 3rd minute we got a free kick on our left which Nasri floated in , but Valdes was in control as no one made any contact.

In the 4th minute Wallcott swapped passes with Fabregas and put on the gas in the direction of the goal. In my opinion he took the wrong choice in trying to slide Robin in with the outside of his foot when Nasri was in more space, but the ball ran out harmlessly as Theo hit it a little too hard. In the 6th minute Walcott danced his way into the 6yrd box, layed off to Cesc who then provided a sumptuous chip into Robins path but Valdes was equal to the shot.

Almost immediately Barca were on the counter with Messi running at our back line, Song intervened and got a yellow card for his trouble ( but very necessary) the next few minutes saw both teams showcasing their passing but we were losing the ball needlessly with Djourou and Cesc being the main culprits. In the 14th minute a slide rule pass saw Messi through on goal but Chesny won the game of bluff and Messi screwed his shot wide of the post. Barcelona then went onto enjoy 60% possession for the next 10 minutes and the scene was set.

We seemed comfortable playing on the break including a rapid break in the 24th minute started by Wilshere who found Walcott just outside our 18 yard box. Again Walcott ran at their defence attracting four players with the aid of Van Persie’s intelligent movement. This allowed Fabregas space to receive Walcotts pass, unfortunately his cross was intercepted by Pique stopping an almost certain goal from van P.

A minute later we were behind . A foul in Barca’s defensive 3rd led to a temporary loss of concentration and after a short spell of inter passing Messi fed  Villa who slotted under the onrushing Chesney. In the stadium I thought he was offside, bt replay’s showed that Clichy was playing him on 0-1. But my worry was Alex Song . Having been booked in the 6th min Song committed foul after foul and was in danger of being sent off. Strangely I still felt that we would score.

Chesney pulled off another save at his feet in the near post and another attack on the break saw van P shoot wide.  Barca were beginning to enjoy themselves , they are the masters of finding space offensively with 1 touch passing and movement but more impressively they press in 2’s and 3’s to win the ball back. However we seemed to be helping them by not using what little possession we had in a more penetrating way. Half time 0-1 but a much more even game than we had last year.

We started the 2nd half brightly and Wilshere continued where he left off  ( someone needs to check his passport). We were pressing Barca well and seemed to be  adopting the counter attack approach. Nasri was getting fitter as the game went on and we started to force corners and free kicks as Barca’s work rate  began to diminish. Koscielny was making a mockery of all those who doubted the validity of his purchase  and Jack continued to play as if he was in the park. We had eradicated our sloppy passing and were beginning to ask questions further up th field. For all their possession in the second half it was Valdes who was doing all the work. Messi was  going deeper and deeper and attempting to run at our defence . In the 67th minute he got through on their left but hit the side netting.

That could be seen as the turning point. Villa was subbed for Keita and Song removed for his own good for Arshavin. All of a sudden we were beginning to find space, it appeared the superior pace of the prem had primed our players to perform at a higher intensity for longer. Cesc was finding his range and Eboue had taken his scaredy cat glasses off. In the 77th minute Clichy and Arshavin combined on our left which resulted in a right footed chip from Clichy which put van P in at a ridiculous angle. With Bendtner’s run seducing Valdes into expecting the cross Robin lashed it in at the near post 1-1 and the stadium went mad .

 

Barca seemed to be trying to hold out for the result but we were having none of it . Five minutes later Koscielny again intercepted, fed Bendtner, who found Wilshere, one touch to Fabregas who with a sublime pass found Nasri on the right , Robin raced forward to cause confusion as Nasri delayed, cut inside and fed an on coming Arshavin to curl the ball into the net 2-1 and cue absolute madness !!! No less than we deserved and a finish not to be underestimated. Barca’s problem now was they had 6 minutes to change their mindset. They had a couple of chances but Chesney was more than up for it

Cheers of ‘we’ve got Cesc Fabregas ‘ rang around the stadium…maybe I wasn’t mad in predicting we would triumph over 2 legs after all…..

Ratings

Wojciech Szczesny– Did less work in the whole game than Almunia did in the first 20 minutes last year. This boy’s decision making was spot on last night and the defence seem to trust him implicitly. I cant see the shirt being taken from him  8

Emmanuel Eboue – A whiff of a dive here and there, and a touch of fear in the first half, not as marauding as we know he can be, but to be fair to him he was not exposed once in the game and I can think of worse back up right backs 7

Johan Djourou – Was alarmingly wasteful with his distribution in the first half , but his partnership with Koscielny is flourishing. A much better second half performance  and proved he is just as good on the deck as he is in the air 8

Laurent Koscielny – It is easier to say what he did’nt do well….misplace maybe two passes…. This guy is still not the finished article, but anyone who dares to argue that there is not potentially a world class defender in this guy must be mad my joint MOM 9

Clichy – A lot of their attacks came down his side but other than playing Villa onside for their goal, the usual aggressive quick and committed performance 8

Alex Song – Was harshly booked early on and lucky not to be sent off in my opinion. Not his best , but not his worst performance and his substitution probably saved us going down to 10 men , but battled for the cause 7

Jack Wilshere –I am lost for words for this young man. He  respects no opponent and plays with the same intensity every game. I feel the grit and determination of Jack and Kosser were instrumental joint MOM 9

Cesc Fabregas – Was guilty of many a misplaced pass in the first half but didn’t give up. Was instrumental in the winning goal with his early defence splitting pass 8

Samir Nasri – I was surprised to see him start and he looked off the pace in the first 25 mins but seemed to grow as the game went on. Excellent awareness for the winner 8

Theo Walcott – Obviously scared the living daylights out of them periodically and was double and treble teamed for his trouble . I suspect he will cause more havoc on the Nou Camp pitch 7

Robin van Persie – World Class sums Robin up . ran his legs off for the majority of the game without seeing too much of the ball but never gave up. Scored from a ridiculous angle and realy should have had another goal in the first half 8.5

Subs

Nick Bendtner– Didn’t do a lot , but I think his run was instrumental in concerning Valdes for Robin’s equaliser 6.5

Arshavin – Came on and ran at the opposition, almost gifted them an equaliser, but is back on form. I would have started him, but what do I know ? crucially scored the winner which was no easy finish 8


Once More unto the Breach, Dear Friends ….

February 16, 2011

Should the unthinkable happen and United go on to win the PL, what will we say? I will tell you, we will say that the best team in England are not the Champions, because without any question this Arsenal team are the best in the country. 4 points behind but 5 years ahead in terms of footballing ability. If any team in Europe can beat an in-form Barcelona it is an in-form Arsenal.

And you doubters, think on this – last season we went to the Nou Camp level after 90 minutes. True, we got steam-rollered in the first half at THOF but more than held our own in the second.  Then we went to Barca without …  Cesc, Gallas, RvP, Arshavin and Song. Take the 5 most influential players out of the Barca team and see how well they do against a full strength Arsenal. And let us not forget, we scored first.  That night we had Silvestre playing at CB,  Eastmond, Merida, Campbell and Traore on the bench!!.

But what do we hear? We hear that AFC received a football lesson in Spain.  Well, tonight Barca will be playing almost our first XI, and I expect things to be different. Had Nasri been fully-fit, Sagna and Vermælen available we could compare like with like,  as it is we will have to beat them with Eboue.

The loss of Sagna (a dreadful decision from a dreadful referee) may well prove costly. I have made my opinion clear about Eboue, he is not good enough, and I fear for him tonight. Defensive discipline is a must and unfortunately our Ivorian has lapses of concentration. I would love for Eboue to prove me wrong but if I was Guardiola, I would target him. The combination of Messi and Alves cause trouble for the very best – both Eboue and Walcott will need total concentration.

What  a mouth-watering battle we have in midfield tonight. The emergence of Wilshere has propelled Fabregas to a higher level. Who needs Iniesta and Xavi when we have two players who are as good and are a combined 15 years younger?  Song has become the Premiership’s best defensive midfielder with the ability to create as well as tackle. And then there is Nasri, our will o’ the wisp, a man who can bamboozle any defence. Should he not play, Arshavin is returning to his devastating best and will be hungry to show the world that he remains World class. We know that Busquets is a fine player – he forced Yaya out of Barca – but Jack will have him running and tackling air. Will Mascherano or Keita play? We know all about Mascherano, a super player and  well used to playing Arsenal. I hope he is on the bench!

Then there is the form of our attack. Both Van Persie and Walcott are in fine fettle. Robin is in the best form of his life and looks unplayable, whereas Walcott has already shown Barca that his pace can and will cause them problems. An ageing Abidal should be targeted by both Nasri and Walcott, he remains a fine player but has lost a yard of pace, and by playing down the left we will force Pedro to stay and cover.

No defence can realistically stop Messi, Villa, Pedro etc. but the central pairing of Djourou and Koscielny are developing into a fine unit. They have pace and power and neither seems to panic under pressure. Djourou in particular has been a revelation – we all know that the 2 points gifted to Newcastle were as a direct result of JD leaving the field. Barca defend from the front with the strikers working the defence and stopping an easy out-ball, thankfully both JD and Kos are comfortable with the ball at their feet. Clichy will have to be alert and contribute to a secure defensive performance.

What a night for Szczezny! Still using stabilisers on his bicycle and yet playing against what is being heralded as the best football team of all-time. How will he cope? Indications are that he will be calmness personified, but who knows? It is a huge test. Fabianski wilted under pressure in the Champions League and it took him a year to recover.  It’s testament to the Other Pole in Goal that there is no talk about our goalkeeping frailties.

My team:

Bench: Almunia  Bendnter Denilson  Squillaci  Arshavin/Nasri  Rosicky  Gibbs

What makes this game such an exciting prospect is that we are playing a team like ours, a team that has one way of playing –  quick on-the-ground football, fast feet and faster imaginations, elegance and brilliance allied with pace and power …. proper entertaining football. It is easy to wax lyrical about Barca, their demolition of Real Madrid was the stuff of legend and will live long in the memory. They are fantastic in every position and have (possibly) for the first time ever, the top 3 players in the world playing in the same team, in fact Barca have 6 players in the World Team of the Year.

There has been much defeatist talk over the ‘net about the prudence of losing to Barca and concentrating on the League.  Many say that the Champions League may be a step too far, and that the prospect of fighting on four fronts is asking too much of our young team.  Nay, Nay, thrice Nay and absolutely not, this is a hugely important game in the ascent of our team to World Domination. We have to show the world we have the nuts to go on and win a major trophy, and if we can win one, why not four? 🙂

This is one of those nights when I am gutted to live 1000 kms from the Grove. Tonight the team need their 12th man and it is up to each and every one of you lucky people who have tickets to roar the lads onto victory. No lapses, just 90 lung-bursting and throat rasping minutes of vocal encouragement.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners

Written by Big Raddy


White hankies and lacklustre support- Let’s not turn into Barca fans

February 15, 2011

Written by CarlitoII

On the eve of THE rematch, I wanted to share my experience of living in the beautiful city of Barcelona. I moved  there (permanently in my mind) 3 days after 9/11. I fell in love with the City, Las Ramblas, the fantastic area of Gracia where we lived, and the relaxed and welcoming Spanish/ Catalan lifestyle.

Needless to say, I met a lot of Barcelona fans during my 18 month sojourn in their fair city and the discussions I had with them led me to be very disappointed in their fan culture. Admittedly, this was during the days of Van Gaal at Barcelona, and the era of Zidane, Raul and McManaman at Real Madrid. Nonetheless, it seemed to me that there was a vast discrepancy between how I thought of myself as an Arsenal fan, and how they saw themselves as Barca fans.

I find it hard to recall specific games, but it slowly dawned on me that the supporters I met would rather lose playing great football. In protest at the pragmatic tactics of the dour Dutchman, the masses waved white hankies around the ground, walked out when their team went behind and constantly complained about what the man said in the press and his lack of charisma. Being a young man who had supported Arsenal throughout the Graham years, I could not understand the fans’ complicity in their own downfall.

The great history of the club was explained to me: the amazing resistance to Franco that meant the stadium was the only place in the whole of Spain where you could speak Catalan without fear, the amazing football of the 70s with Cruyff, the Cruyff-led “dream team” that won the European Cup at Wembley and the tradition of swashbuckling football that was always, first and foremost, an expression of anarchist resistance to the Fascist regime of Franco. All themes I could warm to, yet the reality was a spoilt football public that would not sing unless winning with style and constantly sniped at their players and coaching staff.

I was unimpressed. Moreover, Arsenal were playing the best football I had ever seen us play and that Summer we won the double and won the league at Old Trafford which I watched at a great Irish pub near the Sagrada Familia. There was no comparison. At Highbury I knew that if we went 1-0 down we would not throw in the towel and signal our surrender as the white hankies demonstrated, we would sing up and urge our team on. In fact, I characterised the crowd at Camp Nou as Tottenham fans- forever in thrall to past glories, getting on their team’s back and dragging them down.

Now Barcelona were not a bad team in those days. They had Kluivert on top form, Saviola looked like he was going to be top drawer and with Overmars, DeBoer  and Rivaldo there was no doubting they were a force. But they couldn’t match Real Madrid at home (they went out to them in Europe too) and they didn’t play with enough panache for their demanding ‘socios’. I didn’t even want to go to Camp Nou, I was disgusted by the sniping and what I felt was a lack of support for their team. Angry and drunk one night, I asked, “Do you only support when the team plays well?” How they laughed at the young Englishman with his lack of class and his broken Spanish!

10 years later I find that my own team has now acquired a similar attitude from its fanbase. “We’ll sing when you play well enough” seems at times to be the dominant theme on the blogs and from the fans. I thought when I lived in Barcelona that Arsenal fans would forever be superior, would never question the club or the team as long as they played their hearts out and we sang our hearts out.

But it seems that success is a double-edged sword and despite Barcelona coming through their malaise to become the greatest football team I have ever seen play the game, their fans no longer know what it is to support their team through thick and thin, they are merely connoisseurs of great football and I hope with all my heart that even if we one day become as great a team as they are, we never fail to support our team when the going gets tough.


Arsenal stay focused – bring on Barcelona

February 13, 2011

Sometimes the results of the teams around us go for us, sometimes they go against us and sometimes we just win our game playing fabulous football and I end up feeling that it doesn’t matter what everyone else does because watching us win is the most important part.

Yesterday we needed Man City to take points off of the other Manchester team which didn’t happen so we’re still 4 points behind them in second place and although it doesn’t matter a jot what happens to spuds, its always a better weekend when they lose, that didn’t happen either.

.

Here are some of the things you wouldn’t have known from the 5 minutes granted to us on MOTD.

Some, actually all, of the interplay between Cesc and Jack was magical, they were able to find each other and weave their amazing skills into this game in a way that Arsene could only have dreamt was possible. We saw Cesc’s ability to do this with Flamini and also when Arshavin arrived but his connection with Jack seems to be on another level. How stupid is Capello to want to sit Jack in front of an England back four? He has magic feet and plays so intelligently, shielding the ball, finding the pass. Shearer said that Jack is a proper footballer, well bloody right too, amazing to think he’s only 19.

Our golden-topped Alex Song was everywhere and showed how much we missed him last weekend against Newcastle. There was double-tagging going on to win the ball back and Alex was in the middle of everything. I’m really looking forward to watching him break up play aginst Barca.

Theo got himself into some terrific goal-scoring positions and had three shots all saved by Hennessy who had a great game against us. Arshavin was running his little legs off and I felt that he had definitely turned the corner and was able to have more influence on the game. Theo, Arshavin and Robin did a fair amount of switching positions in the first half which caused confusion for the opposition and I’m hoping to see more of that on Wednesday night.

Djourou slotted straight back where he left off after hobbling off against Everton and his strong head cleared everything that came his way. A great performance again from him and Kosser.

This was a largely stress free afternoon of football, which was surprising considering it followed last weeks disaster at St. James’ Park. The team was the strongest that AW could put out with only Nasri missing. The return of Song and Djourou put smiles on many gooners faces and although everyone needed to be fit for the visit of Barcelona on Wednesday is was very strong team that set up against Wolves.

It was interesting to see Arsene answer questions about the title race. Usually he would say ‘yes, we are still in with a chance’ or ‘it is very open’ but yesterday he was a bit coy, as if his little dream of winning the title might actually come to fruition.

We’re in a great place and on a day when minds might have been wandering to Wednesday nights game what we saw was a team focussed on winning the game they were playing. Mick McCarthy said his team were spanked – Oh happy days, love being Gooner.

Written by peachesgooner

Player ratings by charybdis1966

Chesney – 9, virtually nothing he did was done badly, i especially liked the forceful punch in the first half where he got some distance in a way Almunia never could/would.

Bac – 8, nothing to find fault with,mopped up everything that came his way and got forward with menace and showed he has a terrific engine.

Kozzer – 9, intelligent interceptions and flawless timing of his tackles.

Johan – 8, imperious in the air and composed on the ball although his aversion to hoofing it clear shows and a few times we conceded corners(not always rightly) where he tried to shepherd the ball out.

Clichy – 8, I heard he gave away a few balls in our area later on in the second half but as it was at the opposite end of the ground I, in the manner of Le Boss “didn’t see it so I can’t comment” however a solid performance.

Jack – 9, what a player, patrols the midfield with the grace and power of £30m player but is only 19.

Cesc – 8, the type of world class performance we’ve come to expect from our skipper. Pulled the strings and seemed to have more time on the ball than anyone else.

Song – 8, provided strength and backbone to our midfield. He’ll be vital to our season run in.

Theo – 7, got frustrated with his attempts on goal and perhaps went into his shell later, but his pace frightened the chubby left full back all afternoon.

The Arsh – 7.5, like Theo not everything he tried came off but still showed why is so highly rated by rational commentators, the crowd was buzzing with expectation whenever he got the ball.

The Boy Wonder – 8, took his two goals with clinical precision, gave us an injury scare and gave us a free kick that went close and one that was miles off – a typical Robin performance in other words !


The title race …. will Arsenal wait on amber or go on green?

February 12, 2011

Nothing repeat nothing in football would make me happier than for Arsenal to win the title this season, if one could add the relegation of a Mick McCarthy team life would be even more rosy. Add in  the relegation of a Pulis team and my cup would runneth over (is that a naughty expression?)

Like millions of Gooners I was down-hearted at 5 p.m. last Saturday, despairing of my flimsy team and the imbecility of 3 men in black whom I wouldn’t trust to referee a park 5 -a-side. Who would have thought Wolves would cheer us up? Bottom of the table, managed by a Cro-Magnon man (just check his forehead) and playing a team who were unbeaten – no-one could have envisioned the result (though those with hindsight would point out Wolves fine record against the top sides).

Wolves last 3 victories were against MU, Chelsea and Liverpool – this is going to be no comfortable stroll, but if we are to confirm our pretensions to be Champions this game is a must win. No silly mistakes, no retaliation to what will surely be a very physical battle, and above all no drops in application or vitality. Hopefully last week’s lapse is a thing of the past and not a harbinger of a sad end to our season.

McCarthy is “bigging up” Jamie O ‘Hara saying he will have a major influence upon the game. Get a Grip man! This is a player who couldn’t get into the first team of Harry’s Muppets. That said, I expect us to go into the game with a weakened midfield, so perhaps MM will be right.

Diaby’s reaction last week undid the fine work he put in during the first half (despite the lengthy discussion on AA I still believe he cost us the 2 points). It is a shame as he played well for France midweek and today would certainly have started, instead I expect to see Denilson start. Song is just returning from a muscle injury and with Barca midweek he will surely be rested. Same with Nasri and JD.  Had Sagna not been banned for the midweek game I would have rested him but knowing that Messi will be fearful of playing against a rejuvenated Eboue, Sagna starts.

My Team:

This team will hopefully have enough to get the 3 points on offer. Depending on the fitness of Nasri I would play Arshavin, if there is any chance that Samir will not be fit for Wednesday, I would play Rosicky and rest AA who played a full game midweek.

I guess we willl all be tuned into the midday match. I hope for a draw which should Arseanl win would put us 2 points behind MU and 3 ahead of MC with a game in hand. A loss for MC will surely put them out of the title race. Actually, what I really hope for is an abandoned game due to an 18 man brawl with 5 red cards and a 3 points reduction, but if it is not to be I will take the draw.

England’s first ever automatic traffic lights were erected in Prince’s Square Wolverhampton. This is also the home of the mighty Noddy Holder and Slade. One of my early heroes was the Wolves legend, England Captain and Arsenal manager Billy Wright CBE, whom I once had the privilege of meeting. Another of my football faves was the Tipton Terrier – Steve Bull MBE, they don’t make them like him any more (for which Koscielny will be delighted!).

Let this be the continuation of our 8 match unbeaten PL run.

COYRRG


Wenger’s Barca Raid

January 24, 2011

If Saturday’s performance proved anything, it was surely that Arsène Wenger’s plan to bring Barca-style football to North London is succeeding.

It’s no secret that the boss admires the style and manner with which the Catalans play. Now he has shamelessly lifted their football manual (or should that be Manuel?) from under their very noses and put a red and white stamp on it.

Barca’s front six of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Villa and one of Keita or Mascherano play beautiful pass-and-move football, denying their opponents the ball and carving their way through the most resolute of defences.

After much experimentation, Arsène now has his own ‘Super Six’: Cesc, Song, van Persie, Nasri, Walcott and Wilshere.

What both ‘sixes’ have in common (and why I have referred to them as ‘front sixes’ rather than the more familiar midfield/attack definitions) is that all the players swap positions at will and all pose an attacking threat.

After the two Champions League games against Barca last Spring I wrote a post saying that “Arselona is Closer Than We Think.”

Despite the outstanding first half from the Spaniards at The Grove and despite the Messi master class at the Nou Camp, I took heart from Barca’s exhibition because it showed what Arsenal could aspire to.

I reflected that there were three differences between the sides: Barcelona had more money, they had better players and they worked harder.

Revisiting those thoughts today, the picture has changed.

Do Barcelona have more money? It subsequently became clear last season that they were grossly in debt and in no position to keep making huge-money purchases. Then some rich Qataris came calling and in the blink of a cheque book Barca threw their much-vaunted principles in the bin (along, presumably, with all their Unicef shirts) and accepted a shirt sponsor in exchange for £125m. Given how high their debts were, this is hardly a licence to buy big, although it gives them more clout in the transfer market than they would otherwise have had. Arsenal, meanwhile, continue to revel in the best financial model in big time football, and you really get the feeling that if Arsène made the case to the Board for a £50m signing they would give him the money. Admittedly, he’s as likely to ask for fifty million quid as Wayne Bridge is to ask John Terry to tea.

Do Barcelona have better players? They may just still shade it, but that gap has closed considerably.  Fabregas or Iniesta? Nasri or Messi? Pedro or Walcott? Van Persie or Villa? Those questions don’t produce the simple answers they would have done a year ago. And both our so-called holding players, Song and Wilshere, have more innate footballing talent than either Keita or Mascherano. Earlier this season I was moaning about Alex Song’s forward tendencies, but he has won me over completely. He is becoming a true box-to-box player with silky skills to go along side his wrought iron commitment. Wilshere, meanwhile, at just-turned 19, is surely heading for world superstardom. We’ll certainly be cheering on little Jack long after the name Balotelli has faded from memory.

Do Barca work harder? The answer to that one is still ‘yes’ overall. The genius of that team is that they work as hard when they don’t have the ball as when they do have it. And it’s still an aspect of the game that has let Arsenal down this season. However, I truly believe that our first team DOES have the right work ethic and has demonstrated it repeatedly since the Christmas period.

To summarise, I would hazard that Arselona is just about here. The players, the style of play, the swagger – it’s all coming together beautifully.

We’re reaping the benefits in the domestic competitions and there’s no reason why we can’t also succeed in Europe.

Certainly the games against Barcelona this year will be very different. Barca are a great team and may still beat us over two legs, but I expect things to be much more competitive this time round. Our players know exactly what they’re up against and, let’s not forget, we were decimated by injuries last year.

All of which is not to say there are no concerns.

This Arsenal team still desperately needs some silverware and, psychologically, that may yet be a big step to climb. The Carling Cup would be a great way to start.

I would also like us to sign a good centre back this January. I would feel even more comfortable with some cover for Alex Song, who has become so crucial to our success. And I fret every game about the fitness of key players like Robin, Cesc, Theo and Samir.

But if Lady Luck favours us with a smile, good things could really happen this year.

RockyLives


Arsenal’s Frozen Assets

December 19, 2010

Arsenal’s frozen assets are in the form of key players returning to fitness and form – if everything goes our way, we may see the loss of yesterday’s game as a bonus in that it gives us a little more time to get closer to full strength. The return of Cesc, Vermaelen, Ramsey and Diaby would make us a force to be reckoned with capable of fighting on many fronts and yes, beating Barcelona – why not?

Top of the League for Xmas had such a nice ring to it but the snow put an end to that possibility with the postponement of our game yesterday. Unfortunately it paves the way for the Manchavs to possibly be top of the pile unless their game is called off tomorrow night against Everton. Come next Monday night,  we’ll still be in the top three when we kick off against the chavs so that’s something to be optimistic about.

Aaron Ramsey has only played 45 minutes of football on loan at Notts Forest and is due to return to Arsenal on the 3rd of January. Should we get him back so that he can be of some use to us towards the end of the season or leave him at Forest to slowly rehabilitate? I wasn’t sure about him going there on loan in the first place so I’d like him back in training with us. We haven’t seen much of Denilson and Diaby is too often a one game wonder, so Ramsey alternating with, a by then exhausted Jack, would be a good option.

Barcelona now have so much money they’re going to pay £100m for Cesc. Whatever they want to pay for him he needs to be playing for us at the moment and its very sad for him that he’s not. His heart must have fallen to his boots when the Champions League draw was made but as he missed the tie in Spain last time round I hope he’s going to help us show the world that we can play like that too.

The red card that Sagna received in our game against Belgrade means that he’ll be missing both the legs against Barca  which will be a great shame as I feel he’s back to his first season best. Will we have a fit first eleven by then? – will we heck, but it’ll be interesting to see how the team sets up over the next few weeks. Can Robin and Cesc get match fit? Who will be our no 1? Which of our centre-backs will gel as the first choice pairing? Will we all love Song again? Much to ponder.

Yesterday the club announced the signing of  18-year-old Japanese forward Ryo Miyaichi a player who impressed AW while on loan earlier in the year. He is reported to have a mix of Thierry Henry and Christiano Ronaldo in his locker – I’m looking forward to seeing that.

We have inches of snow here in North London which while looking beautiful is a right pain. If you have snowy conditions stay safe and keep warm.

Written by peachesgooner


Doomer vs AKB: Decoded – written by RockyLives

August 26, 2010

 

Written by RockyLives


George Bernard Shaw is credited with having described England and America as “two nations divided by a common language.”* When it comes to supporting Arsenal, it often seems as if we fans are “two nations divided by a common passion.”  We all want Arsenal to succeed, but by God, from the trenches of the blogosphere we sure don’t look as if we’re on the same side.

But are the Doomers and AKB-ers less divided than they seem? Could it be that the problem is all in the language? As an aid to understanding (and as a late bid for the Nobel Peace Prize) here’s a beginner’s guide to the real meaning of the two prevailing languages spoken in Arseland: Doomspeak and Akbish.

In each case we’ll start with a normal English phrase, word or sentence, then give the translations, for example:

“Fourth Place.”

Doomers: “The summit of Wenger and the Board’s ambition.”

Arsene Knows Best: “An amazing achievement given our lack of spending power.”

OK – got it? Here goes then…

“Emirates Stadium.”

AKB: “A great shining beacon of our status as one of the world’s top clubs.”

Doomers: “A great shiny toilet of doom, down which all our potential transfer money has been pissed for the last five years.”

“Cesc Fabregas.”

AKB: “We’ve got Cesc Fabregas, we’ve got Cesc Fabregas…”

Doomers: “Not for long.”

“Arsenal sign French defender Koscielny.”

Doomers: “Oh Christ, he’s even shorter than Vermaelen.”

AKB: “But he looks good on YouTube!”

“Arsenal thrash Blackpool.”

AKB: “The title’s in the bag!”

Doomers: “Chelsea would have scored 20.”

“Board says funds are available for transfers.”

Doomers: “That’ll be half a million for Silvestre’s one-legged older brother then.”

AKB: “Trust me – we’re going to sign Hugo Lloris, Shay Given, Mark Schwarzer, Phil Jagielka, Per Meetersacker, Riccardo Montolivo, Hatem ben Arfa and Pele. And that’s just for starters.”

“The Arsenal midfield.”

AKB:  “Oooh, I think I’m getting aroused in my trousers.”

Doomers: “We’ll be f*cked if Snow White ever turns up and asks for them back.”

“Denilson”

AKB: “Great stats. Honestly, he’s made more successful backward passes than Jonny Wilkinson.”

Doomers: “Gnash Gnash – outsprinted by a fat middle-aged referee – Gnash Gnash.”

“Tomas Rosicky.”

AKB: “Take a bow, little maestro.”

Doomers: “Oh crap, while taking a bow he did his tendon again. He’ll be back for 2011/12 though.”

“Abou Diaby.”

AKB: “He has all the attributes to be a top, top player.”

Doomers: “Get your head out your arse you dozy git!”

“The Arsenal Medical Team.”

Doomers: “Who runs that place – Harold Shipman?”

AKB: “At least they get lots of practice.”

“Pat Rice.”

Doomers: “What does he do? I mean, really, what does he do?”

AKB: “Legend. Total legend. Not sure what he does though.”

“Manuel Almunia.”

AKB: “He’s a good shot stopper.”

Doomers: “He should be stopped and shot.”

“Sebastien Squillaci.”

Doomers: “He’s the French Mikael Silvestre. Oh, hang on a minute…”

AKB: “He’s taller than Koscielny!”

And finally…

“Barcelona, Xavi, Puyol, Reina.”

AKB: “Bunch of C U Next Tuesdays.”

Doomers: “Bunch of C U Next Tuesdays.”

See – we can all agree on some things…

*Some sources attribute the quote to Oscar Wilde and others to Bertrand Russell.

RockyLives


Almunia; Dead Man Walking? ….. and the real stats

August 18, 2010

Since two writers have submitted posts giving their particular angle on Manuel Almunia, we have decided to publish them both to demonstrate how views can contrast and stats can prove anything!

A view on Almunia written by 26may1989

What must be going through the mind of Manuel Almunia? We’re all frustrated and annoyed that the new keeper Wenger is after hadn’t been secured before the season’s opening, but I guess the point of this post is to try to look at this situation from Almunia’s point of view.

Whatever we think of his ability to be our first choice keeper, and I am very much of the view that he doesn’t have what it takes technically, Almunia has consistently shown himself to be a man of dignity and modesty. Unlike his predecessor, Jens Lehmann, or the man who has led the defence in front of him over the last two or three years, William Gallas, Almunia is a genuine team player. He has also undoubtedly improved his game over the last few years, and while not good enough, is not nearly as bad as many would claim.

But he and we know the reality. Almunia is the footballing equivalent of a dead man walking. It’s now a matter of record that Arsenal have officially bid for at least one other keeper, Mark Schwarzer, who would be an improvement on Almunia but not dramatically so. Whether or not Schwarzer joins us, Almunia knows his days as first choice are numbered, and quite rightly it seems he would leave Arsenal rather than resume duties as a back-up keeper.

However, we went into last weekend with a tough and difficult opening match depending on Almunia, a man who can only feel undermined and threatened by what has happened this summer. There’s no point whingeing about the situation, it is what it is now, and it’s obvious Wenger didn’t want this situation to have come about any more than we did. I just hope Almunia’s professional pride enables him to put any feelings of frustration and alienation to one side – he may even be motivated by a degree of defiance.

I feel for Almunia being in this situation but I also believe he has the strength of character to give his best for as long as he’s Arsenal’s number one.

What the stats say by GunnerN5

Most of us have agonized over our goalkeeping for several seasons,  really since the much maligned Jens left us, boy how we would like him back now. This chart shows just how  bad our main man Almunia really was last season.

Unfortunately the complete range of stats cannot be reproduced in the chart above, but the decisive conclusions are as follows:

Almunia was 17th in saves per shot at 87.8% and 8th on amount of goals allowed at 31. What is really surprising is that our defense only allowed 254 shots against Almunia in his 29 games. This (among this group of keepers) was the 5th lowest amount for the season and the lowest shots against per game at only 9. To the writer this indicates that our defense was not as suspect as perhaps we thought and that our goalkeeping was worse than thought.

If, for instance, Almunia had  the same save % as Van der Sar at 94.1% (5.9% allowed) then he would only have let in 15 goals and we would, have most likely, won the league.

I know stats are simply stats but this chart really shows just how bad Almunia was and although Fabianski and Mannone are not shown they were no better.

Hart, Schwarzer and Given were all better than any of our lot!!


Pool – Arsenal in at the Deep End – written by BigRaddy

August 15, 2010

Written by Big Raddy

First game of a new season, new players, an opportunity to wear our new kit, ….. what is there not to get excited about?

Well, shame on me but I am approaching a trip to Anfield with some trepidation. I am normally confident every time we travel to Liverpool and I am reminded that we opened with a 6-1 victory up there last season (Everton is in Liverpool). But this time there are significant differences, and we all know what they are.

Firstly, Liverpool have finally signed a decent manager. Benitez was quite frankly one of the luckiest men on the planet. Without exception, their Cup victories were fortunate in the extreme (who has ever seen a less deserved CL victory than 2005, exciting though it was). That Benitez spent a King’s ransom and has taken the club backwards is a better indicator of his years as manager than Stevie G beating West Ham. Hodgson on the other hand is (in my opinion) one of the best managers in Europe and will make the Scousers a decent side.

Hodgson has in Reina, Agger, Johnson, Carragher and Aurelio, the personel to create a really solid defence. The signing of Poulsen (whom we should have signed) is inspired. He is a DM who can pass out of defence, is good in the air and above all can be a really dirty b*stard in the Roy Keane mould – expect to see a flurry of cards! With Gerrard in form, Aquilani bedding in, and Cole desperate to show he is worth his wages, they will present a formidable midfield. Thankfully Torres is unlikely to play and N’gog/Babel and Kuyt are hardly clinical finishers.

Secondly, we are not in great shape. Injuries, lack of form, severe defensive frailties and the lack of a reliable goalkeeper are likely to cause  sleepless nights for Mr. Wenger. The injuries are frustrating; when will we start a season with our full squad fit and ready? Song is at best 50/50 to play, and to rely on Denilson again is an indication of a poor summer’s work by our manager (who I am delighted to read is about to sign a new contract). We have been lacking a quality partner to Song for too long, and the possibility of having to start Frimpong is madness, however much of a prospect he is. Should Song be out, we will struggle to win the physical battle in midfield, as we will against any of the top 6 clubs…… we must buy an experienced CB/ DM to have a chance of winning the PL. Hopefully Sunday afternoon will not be a pre-cursor of difficulties to come

Much has been written about Fabregas this summer and I can’t wait to see him play for us this season – I expect him to confirm that he is the best in the World, bar none. He has to play at Anfield for us to win.

My team would be, (though I must point out that I have an unblemished record in this department – never having been right!!) :-

Mr. Wenger usually goes with a defensive team away from home and much as I would like to see Theo get a game, I doubt he will. The questions about RvP’s fitness must preclude him from what will be a tough fixture.

I will be satisfied with a point.

Regular readers of AA will know that I like to give some background about the towns we play in, and this season will be no different. Liverpool was founded by King John in 1207 and he personally designed the street layout (though only for 500 inhabitants). And, this is a brilliant and hard to believe fact….. over 40% of the entire World’s trade went through Liverpool at the start of the 19th Century!! There are many famous Liverpudlians amongst whom are; Rick Astley, the famous Youtube star and Keith Chegwin (Janice Long’s brother), both of whom are Gooners.

Most famous Scousers get out fast and move to Kent/Surrey – Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Cilla Black, Jimmy Tarbuck, Freddie Starr, Anne Robinson, Paul O’Grady etc etc ……. I wonder why??